What are the potential risks of epidural steroid injections?

As with all invasive medical procedures, there are potential risks associated with lumbar epidural steroid injections. In addition to temporary numbness of the bowels and bladder, the most common potential risks and complications include:

Epidural Steroid Injection

  • Infection. Severe infections are rare, occurring in 0.1% to 0.01% of injections.
  • See Osteomyelitis, a Spinal Infection
  • Dural puncture (“wet tap”). A dural puncture occurs in 0.5% of injections. It may cause a post-dural puncture headache (also called a spinal headache) that usually improves within a few days. Although infrequent, a blood patch may be necessary to alleviate the headache. A blood patch is a simple, quick procedure that involves obtaining a small amount of blood from a patient from an arm vein and immediately injecting it into the epidural space to allow it to clot around the spinal sac and stop the leak.
  • Bleeding . Bleeding is a rare complication and is more common for patients with underlying bleeding disorders.
  • Nerve damage. While extremely rare, nerve damage can occur from direct trauma from the needle, or from infection or bleeding.

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